2/27/2012

Measured generosity



Judging by how religion is covered in the media these days (is it any different from the past?), how it is “sold and bought” on the market, I ask: What is normal these days? What is normal about religion that requires stilts of public relations to make it look powerful, attractive, and – to top it off – even fashionable? Is it my language, laced with a tsunami of religious words, that describes me as a serious believer?
            Regrettably, too many of us don’t view religion as good news these days.
            Not long ago I had a blast from the past. A few years back, as I experimented with “border crossing,” or “corner cutting,” or “over-sizing” my own experience in professional communication, a random encounter with my boss took me out of my comfort zone in an instant. Now, I appreciate that bit of realignment that took place just outside my office.
            I remember stopping him to brag about a PR achievement. It was his understated but a rather plain and direct manner that delivered a moment of continuous education of Rajmund Dabrowski.
            “Aren’t we wonderful, Ray!” he stated. He then went on his way.
            A reminder of that experience came recently with two stories. The first was a report in a church magazine, the Adventist Review, featuring two survivors from Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship, which sunk off the coast of Giglio, Italy. A month later I read a slightly different news story, reported by the Northern Star news agency from Australia.
            In a report of the tragic sinking of the Italian cruise ship on January 13, that it is believed to have claimed 32 lives, we are introduced to two survivors from Peru, Milton Paredes Paredes and his daughter Diana Meled, who “credit the faith they gained from reading the Bible and The Great Controversy, by Ellen G. White, with sustaining them during the ordeal.”[See: Adventist Review, February 16, 2012].
            To its credit, the report added that, “another Peruvian, ship employee Elika Fani Soriamolina, is credited with saving many lives, as she directed passengers to lifeboats and gave away her own life jacket. Media reports indicated that her body was found on January 28.”
            The way it was reported, and given a full page with two pictures, made me wonder if such a singular treatment of the tragedy for thousands of people – believers or nor - was a good way to talk about such a tragic event?
            I am cognizant of the faith's influence in helping us to live beyond the ugliness of life, and that many a happy ending should remain as such. One’s faith is an important factor to being sustained during the moments of uncertainty, fear and tragedy. One is never right to belittle personal experiences and their meaning. 
            In the face of tragedy, in my view, there are no winners or losers. Everyone is a participant in the drama, including the public, religious faith notwithstanding.
            The Australia’s regional Northern Star news service published a story last week that was at once bad and good news - http://bit.ly/wQqcq6]. 
            One expects the media to peddle in the negative, the bad, the tragic, and the ugly. Such was a strike of lightning. It resulted in a fire at the Seventh-day Adventist Church complex in Mullumbimby, New South Wales.
            Any “bolt from the heavens” that starts a fire would be considered as bad news, right?
            Now, the good news. The media captured the expression of it in the words of a pastor who concluded that what actually happened was a sign that God exists as though there was a fire, not all was destroyed by it.
            In the words of Pastor Cranville Tooley, captured and reported by a Northern Star’s writer, it was good news that came in the same package: “It’s a wonderful blessing from God because only minor damage occurred and it could have been much worse.”
            As expected, the article received attention of several readers with every comment questioning the pastor’s conclusions. My own views on the subject are similar and some were expressed rather eloquently.  
            Yet, a different issue is when dubious theology makes religious belief a matter of convenience and expediency, including giving a reason to create a public relations moment out of it.
            How reasonable is my own religious expression, I ask myself? Is this even a good public question to ask since religion, its acceptance, and expression, are one’s private business? But, its essence and worth matters when it is lived out, not just talked about.
            In the end, as I consider my own personal experience, I don’t view and experience my God as The Father of measured generosity.